Philadelphia vs. Boston 2018: What Happened?
The Eastern Conference playoffs ended up being a real nail-biting, yelling-at-the-TV experience for Philly fans. Even though the Philadelphia 76ers seemed like they were picking up in the series of games against the Boston Celtics, they couldn’t quite pull it off. But why?
At the beginning of the playoffs, it seemed like Philly basketball fans had a reason to pull out their underdog masks again. This was a team that seemed to be beating all odds in order to win. The Eastern Conference playoffs started with a lapse in the spirit that allowed the Sixers to beat the Miami Heat in four out of five games. The Philly team returned home to smiles and a city full of fans stomping their feet hoping that the Sixers would bring home yet another trophy in 2018. The Sixers and Celtics have their own special rivalry reserved for the playoffs. (Read our previous Sixers blog postfor a quick history on the rivalry between the two teams). After Game one on April 30, Sixers players themselves admitted that they choked. What was going on with their strong defense and bold offense?
The Sixers may have made the fatal mistake of underestimating how the Celtics would perform with two of their best players out due to injuries. Joel Embiid noted how the Celtics defense surprised him with their ability to guard and deflect. Overall, the team’s seemingly minor fumbles ended up being critical errors in the games. Don’t assume that the opposition can’t function without their more well-known players on their roster. Every great player needs a stellar team backing them up in order to ensure success. Even if you may be on one of those stellar teams, a little arrogance can end up sending you in the wrong direction.
President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelocommented on how the team felt pretty confident about themselves at the beginning of May, but the series of games against Boston acted as a “wake up call” for them. In order to get as far as their talent should get them, the Sixers will need to work on improving individual players’ stamina and the overall combined effort to consistently control the ball. Although stopping and starting may result in a more dramatic game for fans, consistent mindful strategy keeps the odds in your favor.
Without a doubt, the Sixers losses against the Celtics were incredibly close. The final moves in the last few minutes or seconds of each game proved to be the tie breakers. In the last six seconds of game three, Celtics player Al Horford stuck on Embiid’s hip, intercepting a pass to Habiid that would have given the Sixers the win they thought they had. Horford’s quick thinking in the last few seconds of the game gave him the opportunity to do a layup and score, giving the Celtics the win.
In Game five, the Celtics beat the Sixers 114-112. Even non-sports fans know that is a painfully close match between these two East Coast star teams. With the clock counting down from 90 seconds left in the game, the Celtics seized control and score eight straight points within 77 of those precious remaining seconds. And just like last year, the Celtics are now facing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals.
Embiid and T.J. McConnell are the most watched talent on the current Sixers lineup. Although the two young players definitely played well throughout the season, critics say some further conditioning may be needed in order to make sure they can keep up their winning pace for more than 30 minutes a game. Although this is a tough feat for any athlete, it’s looking more and more essential for them to achieve this in order to really conquer next year. After all, they know this won’t be the last time they face the Celtics in order to make their way into the finals.
“If we're going to do anything of any significance, we're always going to have to go through the Boston Celtics,” head coach Brett Brownsaid after Game five, the match that officially ended the Sixers’ stint in this year’s playoffs. Every fire needs fuel. As columnist Bob Ford stated in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Sixers’ have a new fire to advance their younger players and play better as a team. Although the talent is certainly there, the team needs to become a little bit more seasoned in order to truly conquer their opponents throughout the regular season and through the playoffs. Although it can be unfortunate, it does sometimes take losing a game or series in order to regroup and come up with better strategies.
Either way, the renewal of this rivalry is a game changer for both teams. The Sixers must face the Celtics with renewed skill and composure in order to triumph next year. And, it’ll make for games that are even more fun to watch. Philly basketball fans can’t wait to see what’s up next for their beloved Sixers.